Kansas Scrambles To Change Rules After 6 Teens Enter Governor's Race

Six Kansas teens are running for governor, following the lead of Jack Bergeson (center). Some of the candidates are seen here participating in a forum at a high school in Lawrence, Kan., in October.

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Christopher Smith/AFP/Getty Images

There are a lot of requirements if you want to vote in Kansas. You must be 18 years old. You need to show a photo ID at your polling place and show proof of U.S. citizenship when you register to vote. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says the state’s voter ID laws are among the strictest in the nation.

But when it comes to the rules about who can run for state office? There are no rules.

“Under Kansas law, there is no law governing the qualifications for governor, not one,” Bryan Caskey, director of elections at the Kansas secretary of state’s office, toldThe Kansas City Star last year. “So there’s seriously nothing on the books that lays out anything, no age, no residency, no experience. Nothing.”

So into the race jumped 16-year-old Jack Bergeson. Calling himself an anti-establishment candidate, Bergeson is pursuing the Democratic nomination, advocating for a $12 minimum wage, legalization of medical marijuana, and high-speed rail for major cities in the region.

“I thought, you know, let’s give the people of Kansas a chance,” Bergeson told the Star in August. “Let’s try something new that has never really been tried anywhere else before.”

Three more teen boys, running as Republicans, soon entered the governor’s race – so many that they had their own candidates’ forum in a high school gym in Lawrence.

“This needs to be a government that represents everyone, not just 30 years old up,” said 17-year-old candidate Dominic Scavuzzo.

Two more teen boys threw hats in the ring, spurring Kansas lawmakers to try to put a stop to such youthful exuberance. Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter introduced a bill requiring candidates to be at least 18 years old to run for the state’s top elected offices, such as governor, secretary of state or attorney general. And candidates for governor and lietenant governor would have to have lived in the state for four years.

“We have age requirements on voters, and I really think that anybody who’s running should be able to vote for themselves,” Rep. Keith Esau, a Republican running for secretary of state, toldThe Topeka Capitol-Journal.

The Star reports that the bill passed out of House committee on Monday.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Bergeson, now 17, told the Star. “I’m not a fan of it. I think it’s a reactionary bill. I think it’s trying to disenfranchise candidates.”

The law wouldn’t take effect until after the November elections. And that’s important, said Caskey at the secretary of state’s office.

“The secretary of state does not want there to be any appearance of a conflict of interest concerning persons who are currently candidates and do not meet these proposed requirements,” he told the Capitol-Journal.

He’s referring to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the force behind the state’s strict voter ID law, who is running for governor. Kobach was also co-chair of President Trump’s controversial voting commission, which was dissolved last month.

But the anything-goes system that has been so appealing to Kansas teenagers has been less appealing to one group: women.

State Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, became the first woman to enter the crowded field for governor in December. Meanwhile, more than 20 men or boys have declared their candidacy.

The state’s lack of rules for candidacy are so profound that Caskey could not even find a rule limiting the field to human candidates.

“[A] dog has never tried to file,” he told the Star last year. “I don’t know what would happen if one tried to.”

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No. 3 Justice Department Official Rachel Brand Will Step Down

Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand speaks during the opening of the summit on Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking at Department of Justice in Washington.

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The No. 3 official at the Justice Department will be stepping down after less than a year, leaving a key vacancy in the succession of people who are tasked with overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sources familiar with the decision tell NPR that Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand will be leaving her post after less than a year on the job. The source said Brand, who was sworn in last May, has been in talks about becoming the top lawyer at Walmart.

For months, other sources said Brand has chafed at the limits of her post at DOJ. President Trump has repeatedly attacked the law enforcement agency and sought to cast doubt on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Her role at the Justice Department was doubly important because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, given his role with the Trump campaign. That left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein overseeing Mueller’s investigation, and Trump and GOP allies have attacked Rosenstein at times.

Scrutiny of Rosenstein from conservatives allied with Trump escalated last week after a Republican memo authored by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., detailed how Justice Department and FBI officials including Rosenstein authorized surveillance on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, who had contact with Russians.

Asked last Friday after the memo’s release whether he still had confidence in Rosenstein, Trump responded, “You figure that one out,” raising the specter he might fire the deputy attorney general. However, the White House quickly denied any plans to remove Rosenstein. But if he was let go, that would have left Brand next in line to oversee Mueller’s investigation, among Rosenstein’s other responsibilities.

Brand is an expert in national security and helped defend the administration’s efforts to renew a foreign surveillance law. But she had a relatively small staff and a portfolio of issues that mostly focused on civil litigation, civil rights and other issues. In recent months, Brand delivered speeches in the administration’s fight against human trafficking.

Her office oversees the Antitrust Division, the Civil Division, the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Tax Division, the Office of Justice Programs, the Community Oriented Policing Services, the Community Relations Service, the Office of Dispute Resolution, the Office of Violence Against Women, the Office of Information and Privacy, the Executive Office for United States Trustees and the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.

Brand was also a top Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, helping pick nominees for federal judgeships. And she previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“Rachel Brand is a lawyer of the highest caliber and integrity. I was proud to work for her in the Bush administration when she ran the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy and was proud to call her a colleague at [George Mason University’s] Scalia Law School,” national security expert and adjunct law professor Jamil Jaffer told NPR. “I’m certain that she’ll do great things going forward and will be in public service again in the near future.”

The news of Brand’s departure was first reported by the New York Times.

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YouTube Pulls Ads from Vlogger Logan Paul For Tasing Dead Rats

YouTube yanked advertisers from Logan Paul’s channel after the vlogger posted a new video of himself tasing two dead rats.

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Just days after a monthlong hiatus from making megabucks-generating videos, YouTube vlogger Logan Paul is in trouble again for creating more questionable content.

On Friday, after reviewing a new video in which Paul tased two dead rats and attempted to give a living koi fish CPR, then sent out a Tweet promising to eat toxic Tide pods in exchange for retweets, YouTube temporarily pulled ads from Paul’s channel.

In a Tweet the company said it was “[i]n response to Paul’s recent pattern of behavior.”

In response to Logan Paul’s recent pattern of behavior, we’ve temporarily suspended ads on his channels.

— YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) February 9, 2018

“This is not a decision we made lightly,” a YouTube spokeswoman told NPR in a statement Friday.

“We believe he has exhibited a pattern of behavior in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially damaging to the broader creator community,” she said.

Logan Paul VlogsYouTube

The video platform did not specify how long the ad ban would last.

Paul is one of YouTube’s biggest stars with more than 16.5 million subscribers, according to Socialblade. But the site reports, his ad revenue has plummeted from about $1.3 million per month to under $700,000 in recent weeks.

The drop occurred after he posted a video showing a dead body on a visit to what is known as Japan’s “suicide forest.” While the video drew millions of views it also drew fervent rebukes from people on social media who said it made light of a tragic issue.

Paul removed the video a week later and apologized but YouTube decided to scale back its relationship with the vlogger anyway. His channel was removed from Google Preferred, a program connecting advertisers with top-tier content producers on the site. And it shelved plans for a follow-up to his 2017 feature-length film for YouTube, called The Thinning: New World Order.

Paul’s initial comeback video was an effort by the 22-year-old entrepreneur to wipe the slate clean. A rebirth of sorts. The 12-minute video opens with waves washing up on Paul’s seemingly shipwrecked body, as he slowly comes to in the bright light of day.

About half way through, Paul is off the beach, addressing his audience from beside the swimming pool of his mansion in Encino, Calif., exclaiming, “New Year, new me, new haircut!” and promising, “I will never, ever, ever forget who I am at my core, and no one can make me think I am something otherwise.”

But that seems to be a problem for YouTube which is now punishing Paul for failing to follow its advertiser policy guidelines. YouTube instructs its creators to, “use your common sense, don’t abuse the site, and be respectful of others.”

Guidelines which YouTube says Paul violated when he posted a video — viewed more than 8 million times — of himself shooting two dead rats with a taser and then laughing gleefully.

According to YouTube’s rules, Paul could have potentially avoided this latest controversy by simply turning off the ads on the video.

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Despite Tumultuous Stock Market, Some Economists Say Inflation Threat Is Exaggerated

The economic expansion has come with high corporate profits, but barely any wage growth. Now, markets are in a tizzy over a a recent bump up in wages. But Germany has an even tighter job market without higher inflation, and one measure of job market tightness — the number of people who quit jobs to take new ones — remains low.

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Concerns Rise As Missouri's Legislature Is Struggling To Fund Basic Services

In Missouri, the state’s embattled governor and GOP legislature are struggling to fund basic services, such as roads, higher education institutions, and health care for disabled. Even some Republicans are worried that the state is following a path that Kansas took earlier in the decade, when the GOP starkly cut taxes — and later had to raise them.

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Blue Dye Kills Malaria Parasites — But There Is One Catch

blue dye drop

Credit: Jay Reed/NPR

It’s hard to imagine that a blue dye sold in pet food stores in the U.S. to fight fungal infections in tropical fish could be a potent weapon against malaria.

A study published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases showed that might be possible. Researchers added doses of the dye to dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, a go-to malaria drug, and found that the dye killed the parasites that spread malaria within two days.So if a mosquito were to bite a person recovering from malaria, the mosquito couldn’t pick up live parasites and spread them to its next human target.

By contrast, after a week, people who got that malaria drug without methylene blue continued to pass the parasite to mosquitoes.

Actually, the use of the dye to fight malaria is not quite as odd as it sounds. The blue dye in question, called methylene blue, is the oldest synthetic anti-malarial drug. A paper published in 1891 tells how two scientists successfully used it to treat a malaria patient.

But there was a catch.

“The treatment being followed by an intense blue coloring of the urine, and the faeces becoming blue on exposure to light, it is not very likely that methylene blue will be much used outside of hospitals,” reads an 1892 publication of the Proceedings of the American Pharmaceutical Association.

“Because of the color, it never really took off,” agrees Ingrid Chen, one of the study’s lead authors and an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine. UCSF’s Institute of Global Health Sciences collaborated on the study with the Malaria Research and Training Center in Mali, the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The dye contains carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, nitrogen and sulfur. It’s often added to a liquid and used as a lab stain, making it easier to see some cell parts and types of bacteria through a microscope

Chen and her colleagues designed a study based at the University of Bamako in Mali to test the safety and impact of methylene blue in stopping transmission of malaria parasites to mosquitoes.

All of the 80 participants, men and boys ages 5 to 50, were carrying gametocytes, a stage of the malaria parasite that can be passed from humans to mosquitoes. But they weren’t experiencing any malaria symptoms and had not taken any antimalarials within 7 days of screening for the study.

Participants were split into four groups and given four different types of treatment, ranging from a pill containing methylene blue to malaria medication with no added dye.

“As the [malaria] infection is dying, it releases a wave of these different forms of parasites – the male and female gametocyte [the parasite stage that can be transmitted to mosquitoes]. It tries to catch the next mosquito out of there to a more healthy environment,” says Chris Plowe, director of the Global Health Institute at Duke University, who was not involved in the study. “You do cure the infection, but at a cost of sending out these waves of gametocytes to other people via mosquito.”

Plowe sees the blue-dye approach as potentially helpful in countries like Mali, where malaria rates remain high despite efforts to lower transmission, such as distributing bed nets and rapid diagnostic testing.

William Moss, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute who also wasn’t involved in the study, adds that primaquine and methylene blue could be particularly helpful in places that already have low malaria transmission and are trying to eliminate it.

But there are still some unknowns: Will methylene blue actually be able to reduce transmission rates in the field?

Moss sees some potential challenges.

One concern is that you’d have to give this treatment to a “high enough proportion of individuals within the community who are infectious,” Moss says.

And then there’s the problem cited back in the 19th century: the blue urine.

“The knee-jerk reaction is, ‘my body’s full of this chemical,'” Chen says, adding that the color change doesn’t cause any health problems. “It looks worse than it is.” And it only lasts about a week.

So people would have to be educated about this side effect, she notes.

Moss agrees: If “people don’t like the blue urine, they refuse to take the meds.”

Courtney Columbus, a multimedia journalist, covers science, global health and consumer health. Her work has appeared in the Arizona Republic and on Arizona PBS. Contact her @cmcolumbus11.

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